You Can Buy 86 Unreleased Dylan Recordings If You Are Lucky and Rich and Live in Europe

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 8 2013 5:19 PM

Unreleased Dylan Tracks Are Blowin’ in the Wind

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The cover of Bob Dylan's four-disc set of previously unreleased songs

Sony Music

Sony recently put out 86 previously unreleased Bob Dylan recordings from 1962 and 1963. Among the tracks are several versions of “Mixed Up Confusion” as well as alternate takes of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Some of the recordings have appeared on bootlegs, but the versions on this compilation are reportedly of better quality.

There’s one catch: The new compilation isn’t available to listeners in the United States. Just 100 copies were made, and they were released only in Europe, where they arrived late last year.

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The album’s title, The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. 1, suggests the reason for this bizarre arrangement. In 2011, the European Union revised its copyright laws, extending protection from 50 to 70 years, a change that applies to recordings made during or after 1963. (Dylan’s debut album, which came out in ’62, is now part of the public domain in Europe.) Under the new laws, there is a “use it or lose it” provision, meaning, as someone at Sony Music told Rolling Stone, “If you haven’t used the recordings in 50 years, you aren’t going to get any more.” In order to get copyright protection for the unreleased tracks—protection that will last 70 years instead of the previous 50—Sony had to release even just a handful of copies, which is what they did. That same Sony Music rep said that the company hopes to do more with these tracks eventually, but that the timing wasn’t right, given the recent release of Dylan’s newest studio album, Tempest.

“Roughly 100 copies of the collection were given to random record stores in France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom,” Rolling Stone says. The collection was also made available for download on Dylan’s site, but only for people logging on in France and Germany.

Dylan fans stateside who are desperate to hear the recordings can keep an eye on eBay—as long as they don’t mind paying upwards of $1,500 dollars.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture blogger for Brow Beat. Follow her on Twitter.